Philippines

Friday, February 05, 2016
Coron, Palawan, Philippines
From Mui Né in Vietnam we bus-fly-bus-boat-tricycle to Boracay in the Philippines. Boracay, a famous name among kite fanatics. We find out it is a bit of a schizophrenic place: the west side is white beach, 4km of white sands and crystal blue water, one of the reasons Boracay appeared on the tourist radar. The east-side is the kite beach, Bulabog, with this time of year consistent strong winds, shallow water in the bay until the edge of the reef and a pretty laid back atmosphere. Not in white beach, which is literally swamped with Asiatic tourists, mainly from Korea, China, Taiwan and a few Japanese. The crazy Koreans are easily recognizable: they travel in packs (and do it from the back, how else can you get to the b….), the girls dye their hair brown, the guys have hip hairdo's, and they are mainly concerned about capturing the moment, or more specifically themselves. Walking around on white beach you have to constantly duck the selfie sticks. I saw a local, fed up with the every day situation, wearing a t-shirt "Fuck your selfie". Tourism has exploded and it feels like Bali Kuta beach, only Boracay Island is ten times smaller. Malls and more resorts are constructed everywhere. Accommodations are not cheap. Moreover the kite beach is also the open sewer of the island with a few stinking pipes at the beach, and it has sea urchins (after a brief encounter I am still pushing out the needles from four weeks ago). So at first we are not completely convinced that this is the kite heaven where we are going to stay for weeks on end. But once we get to find our way, we do see the beauty. There is plenty of nice restaurants, cool bars (spider house) and a cool kite community (Exit bar), we witness a well-organized kite competition, enjoy great breakfasts at our B&B the lazy dog, cheap rum (200 pesos/4 euro for a liter of 5 year old rum), and so on.
The wind is a bit moderate and also the long term wind prediction does not show improvement, so I invest in a 14m, a wonderfully stable kite. It doesn’t take long before I start practicing back loops, scary to try for the first time but due to good preparation watching videos and visualization the first attempt succeeds and is actually a school example. But then the mind takes over and half of the following attempts fail. After two weeks of kiting and a few crashes the overworked core results in a stinging pain around the left rib cage. Just to make sure, we visit the clinic visit and a photo shows at least nothing is broken, which leaves the conclusion of a muscle spasm. Doctors’ advice: two weeks no kiting. A new plan needs to be made and in fact we both are a bit tired of busy Boracay. But a travel plan is not easy to make with 7000 islands, limited airline services and a not so impeccable track record of ferry services. But we find a relatively easy way to go to Palawan, the big island in the south-east, and supposedly beautiful.
We take the short ferry back from Boracay to Caticlan and bus to Iloilo (pronounce as two words, ilo – ilo) just in time for a festival in town with a firework competition between firework suppliers. We missed the one in Amsterdam this New Year’s eve, but this definitely makes up for it. The next day we have a short flight to the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa. Our expectations are not too high of this town based on the descriptions, which helps to have a couple of pleasant surprises. First of all the people are friendly and interested and there are not many tourists, which is a nice break from crazy Boracay. We find a great lunch place, Kalui, a shoeless restaurant in almost Balinese wooden style, and a fantastic seafood based menu. Our plan was to visit the nearby '7th world wonder’ underground river, but en-route the trip is cancelled due to bad weather, so instead we rent a motorbike and visit the nearby kite spots, Emerald beach and Blue Palawan, the last having a wakestyle park and recently venue of a Philippines competition. There is no wind, so we just hang at the pool and enjoy the sea views. The next day we transport to El Nido in the north of Palawan, a small touristy city surrounded by imposing cliffs, and the home base to visit the Bacuit archipelago. But first we visit the kite spot that we have been told about in Boracay, an hour drive on the north-east coast. The ride is beautiful through small farm villages, rice fields and beautiful bays. The small and upscale resort Qi Palawan has a kite school and we can use the facilities as long as we spend some money. It has its own bay, and we are kiting with three people in something that comes close to paradise. After two days the wind drops and we make plans to visit the Bacuit archipelago on a day trip (as most people do) and then take an 8-hour boat transfer to the island above Palawan, Busuanga/Coron. We would love to do this in a combined 5 day expedition, but the company doing this (Tao Philippines) is fully booked until May, even though they have 8 boats on the water. Of course it doesn’t help if it is highly recommended in the LP and several travel magazines. But by chance our hotel owner tips us about a new company, operating for some time in Coron and now setting up shop in El Nido as well.
This is how we meet Janet & Todd, a Philippino-American couple, adventurers by nature. He has sailed 10 years solo around the world, she is an athlete, and amongst others they climbed the Everest together. A perfect track record to take us on an expedition I would say. When we leave El Nido we are in for a rough start, the wind is strong and crossing the fairly open channel there are big waves, we have to move to the top of the boat to stay dry. This is the maiden voyage of this new boat, and it shows, during the afternoon we get engine problems. We have to camp at the nearby Island with only a fisherman’s couple living there and no facilities. The tent is of poor quality and not very capable of handling the strong wind, we have to weigh it down with stones and during the night it regularly collapses on our faces. Also the mattress got wet in the canoe trip to the shore, so we sleep on the sand. But all is forgotten in the morning when the sun rises over this beautiful landscape and a pancake breakfast is served! In the afternoon we switch boat, the home base of Janet & Todd and their 2,5 year old daughter Amihan. Due to the environment, she is growing up as an Island girl, unaccustomed to wearing shoes, in fact anything at all. The next 4 days we explore this piece of Paradise, around the Culion Island where we stay with a wonderful elderly couple, Vince & Rosa. He is 81 years old, but still full of plans of improving his campsite with cascading pools, fish ponds and the like. We camp at the imposing Black Island, with its high steep façade of black limestone, with a beautiful white sandy beach in front. A campfire at night, BBQ-ed pork chops, a sunrise from the tent, unforgettable. During the boating, we have a lot of stops at snorkeling sites, with few wrecks of WWII, a Japanese landing craft, a submarine hunter, very impressive with good visibility, beautiful coral and some nice fish (moon fish, box fish, napoleon fish, parrot fish, beautiful blue transparent squid, fast hunting trumpet fish, a very curious school of zebra fish). On the boat we also spot a passing whale shark. To top it all off and since we are the only two guests on board, just before Coron harbor we have a kiting session with the impressive Coron Island as a back drop. This trip could not have been much better. You can book the trip on www.belarminoventures.com , highly recommended!
We are now in Coron city, relaxing and planning the remaining time in the Philippines. On the 7th we fly to Manilla, which is going to be a challenge on a small ATR airplane and only 20kg per passenger allowance. Our kite bag with four kites is already 30kg, so we are going to be wearing a lot of clothes and a lot of hand luggage and keep our fingers crossed. From Manilla we plan to move to the north, to Pagudpud, one of the windiest places in the Philippines.

Comments

Peter
2016-02-05

Goed dat je snoop nog niet vergeten bent ;-)

Marjan Derksen
2016-02-10

Ha Frans & Caroline, dat ziet er wel geweldig uit! Wat maken jullie weer een mooie reis! Fijn om jullie zo happy te zien. XXXMarjan

2018-12-10